New Algonquin-Lake in the Hills fire chief 'eminently qualified,' retiring boss says
Peter Van Dorpe was in for a change when he was hired nearly two years ago as assistant fire chief of the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District.
Born and raised in Chicago, Van Dorpe spent the first 33 years of his career at the Chicago Fire Department, where he eventually worked his way up to become chief of the training division.
In a fire department of 5,000 employees, his job description was carved out for him, he said. But when he moved to the fire protection district, which has about 70 people, he had to be a jack of all trades.
"I had a really steep learning curve," Van Dorpe said, noting he started learning about budgeting, human resources and IT. "You've got to touch everything out here."
He was recently chosen to replace Fire Chief Patrick Mullen, who retires Aug. 7.
"He's eminently qualified to take over the position," Mullen said, adding that Van Dorpe's extensive experience in the field was a big reason he originally was hired. "He's very open and easygoing. He has a unique ability to make connections with people."
Mullen was hired at the fire protection district only months before Van Dorpe during a large administrative turnover.
In the past two years, Mullen said, he and his team worked on "opening up a dialogue and restoring relationships" throughout the fire protection district.
"That was somewhat lacking," he said. "That was a symptom that I was kind of charged to address when I first got hired."
Under Mullen, the organization also formed and adopted a strategic plan, which Van Dorpe said would likely set the groundwork for financial and organizational development.
"Pat (Mullen) did a lot of the heavy lifting seeing that those things got done," Van Dorpe said. "I learned everything from him."
In Chicago, trust seemed to be lacking in an organization where it was impossible to get to know everybody, Van Dorpe said. But Mullen taught him the importance of building trust and remaining ethical.
The best part about the fire protection district, and a large reason Van Dorpe accepted the offer to become chief, is that positions are often filled internally, he said. Officials are in the process of hiring the next assistant fire chief, which will likely be announced next week.
"If you're always bringing in outside people, nobody gets promoted, and that can lead to bad morale," Van Dorpe said. "I know the organization has the talent to take over my spot and then eventually take over the entire job. That's really good to see."